UFC middleweight Dan Kelly became an unlikely contender and fan favorite after putting together a four-fight win streak between 2015 and 2017. An Olympic judo athlete, he used his grappling strength to ascend into the rankings. But his true strength is as a father, and he is hoping to make one more big memory for his son, Erik, who has a rare disease.
Erik has cystinosis, a condition that causes the amino acid cystine to build-up on vital organs. Kelly's 12-year-old son is in need of a kidney transplant. Erik is in a fight for his life, but neither father nor son are ready to give up.
When the UFC returns to Adelaide on December 2, Kelly wants to make the walk to the cage one last time with his son in tow.
Kelly told the Herald-Sun, "I broached it with him and he said, 'I don't want to be in the way,' and I said, 'You won't be in the way, mate. I want you there.'"
However, there is no guarantee Kelly gets that fight. He has dropped his last three contests, two coming by way of knockout.
Fellow middleweight Zak Cummings has called out Kelly for the December 2 date, and the two exchanged words on social media. All the pieces seem to be in play for this special moment. Now it is on the UFC to offer the talent bout agreements and for them to sign on the dotted line.
An improbable fan favorite deserves one last walk in front of friends and family, but more importantly, Kelly deserves to make this moment special with the addition of his son. The UFC has the chance to show what makes this sport so great with an emotional send-off and using his platform to increase awareness of cystinosis.
"I'm an emotional guy as well, but it would very, very special," Kelly said.
And no one will be offering an argument to that.